By Barbara Wood
Residents of unincorporated San Mateo County with building or planning projects may soon see their permit costs go up. But first, the Board of Supervisors has asked county planners to justify the increases.
A new fee schedule for the planning and building department was presented to the supervisors at their March 13 meeting by Community Development Director Jim Eggemeyer.
Mr. Eggemeyer suggested an overall fee increase of 5 percent, but then presented a whole list of recommended new or revised fees, including a few fee reductions.
The proposed fee schedule can be viewed at recommended fees.
Some of the proposed fees include: $601 for a Williamson Act inspection to assure land is being used for agriculture, $150 for an emergency tree-removal permit, $420 for a minor modification to an already approved permit, $150 for a gas line or water heater replacement permit, and $450 for a certificate of temporary occupancy permit.
But supervisors had some questions. Supervisor Don Horsley said that although the department's goal is to pay the costs of providing services, it does not take into account that after new construction or remodeling the homeowner will pay higher property taxes. "It almost discourages a homeowner from doing something," he said -- or, in some cases encourages them to do things without permits.
Appeals fees would go up from $491 to a proposed $1,000. "It seems like we're almost trying to deter people from appealing," Supervisor Horsley said. "I just cannot support that."
Local residents agreed that many of the changes were too high; the county was presented with a petition signed by 26 residents of Emerald Hills and North Fair Oaks by Maria Rutenberg, who said she actually has more than twice that many signatures.
Lennie Roberts of Ladera, representing the Committee for Green Foothills, said the increase in appeals fees "has a chilling effect on people who are concerned about a permit that has been given in their area," she said. "I think a $1,000 appeal fee is onerous for many people."
Board President Adrienne Tissier said that while building and planning fees have not gone up since 2004, "we can't make that up." "I would really like to have more detail," she said. "If this is really what it costs to do the job, we're going to have to bite the bullet."
Supervisors Tissier and Horsley will meet with the planning and building staff to look at the new fee schedule and bring it back to the full board in April.